Quantcast


With the Patriots taking the week off to rest with a much needed bye, Patriots fans are relegated to watching how the rest of the AFC playoff picture shapes up.

Either the Kansas City Chiefs, Cincinnati Bengals or Houston Texans will be headed to Foxborough to play for a chance at the AFC Championship game. The Pats are hobbled and have plenty of issues heading into the post-season, so we thought the break would be a perfect time for our writers to weigh in on what they'll be looking for this weekend and when the team finally does take the field next weekend.

Jesse Gaunce

Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents (Cincinnati, Houston, KC), which team would you most like to avoid?

- Cincinnati. Their a match up nightmare for the Patriots defense with a full compliment of receivers, an emerging star tight end in Tyler Eifert and a devastating pass rush. Malcolm Butler has proven he can go toe-to-toe with another team's top receiving threat (A.J. Green, in this case), but what about the rest of the secondary? They'd have to deal with Eifert, Marvin Jones, Mohammed Sanu and others. Also, for what it's worth, Andy Dalton has a good chance of coming back for a divisional round game if the Bengals get past the Steelers, and he was having the best season of his career up until he was injured.

Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents, who do you consider to be the most favorable matchup?

- I'd say Houston in large part because the banged-up Patriots played them earlier this year and won handily. DeAndre Hopkins was effectively taken out of the game and the Pats were able to successfully limit J.J. Watt's ability to get to Tom Brady. Granted, Watt was injured during the mid-December game and should be closer to full strength going into a potential divisional round match up. While the Texans do have a solid pass rush outside of Watt with Whitney Mercilus and Vince Wilfork leading the charge, if Julian Edelman returns, I really like the Pats chances against what is a weak Houston secondary.

The Pats have shuffled their offensive line throughout the season. Assuming Vollmer is back, who should be their starting five during the playoffs?

LT - Marcus Cannon
LG - Shaq Mason
C- Bryan Stork
RG - Josh Kline
RT - Sebastian Vollmer

This combination seemed to work nicely against the Bills during the Monday night match up in late November. And yes, I know the thought of Cannon protecting Brady's blindside is scary, but they could move Vollmer over there and move Cannon to the right if Cannon sucks. Vollmer is far and away the best of the five, so it's imperative that he's healthy and can take care of the oppositions toughest player(s). Stork has progressed nicely since coming back from injured reserve, and Kline and Mason have both played well at points this season.


Aside from the O-line, what is the Pats biggest achilles heal during this postseason run?


I couldn't decide between saying giving up big plays and dropped passes, so I'll go with a combination of both. Dropped passes will obviously stall drives, forcing the defense to play extra series'. Roughly 33% of Brady's passes during the Eagles game were drops by Danny Amendola, Keshawn Martin, Brandon LaFell and others. That obviously must change if the Patriots want to get back to scoring more than the 23 points they've averaged in the last six games. Luckily, the return of Julian Edelman should help some of the drops. Using Edelman, Rob Gronkowski and Amendola over the middle, which the Pats like to do, will also help. They didn't use Amendola or Gronk over the middle much, if at all during the Miami game and that really hindered their ability to move the chains.

Big plays are another thing they should be cautious of. They gave up 11 plays of 15 or more yards against Miami. They gave up long touchdowns to Emmanuel Sanders, Brandon Marshall and Odell Beckham Jr. in the last month and a half that should have never happened. I'm not sure where Logan Ryan has been the last few games, but he needs to get back to playing at a high level if the Patriots want to succeed. Butler can't do everything himself. Also, the health of Devin McCourty is going to be crucial moving forward. He was clearly hobbled against Miami, and one could argue maybe New England should have rested him to prevent further injury. His communication and leadership skills while on the field are second to none.

Ned Brady


Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents (Cincinnati, Houston, KC), which team would you most like to avoid?

It's Cincinnati, regardless of who starts under center. Like Houston and Kansas City, Cincinnati has a talented group of pass rushers (led by Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap) who can pose plenty of matchup problems for the Pats struggling offensive line. Unlike those other two, Cincinnati also has the complementary weapons to challenge the Patriots defense. When opponents have had success throwing against the Patriots secondary, it's generally been by spreading them out in three receiver sets and attacking the weak links. Cincinnati boasts an excellent trio of explosive receivers (AJ Green, Marvin Jones, Mohammed Sanu), all three of whom would have a mismatch against Leonard Johnson or Justin Coleman in the slot. Throw in matchup problems like Tyler Eifert and Gio Bernard and the Bengals have the weapons to stretch this man-based defense thin. The Bengals also have one of the league's best offensive lines, which could potential neutralize the Patriots strength as a pass rushing defense. Yes, the Bengals have to get over the hump and prove they can win in the postseason, but as far as overall roster talent, they are heads and shoulders above the other two potential opponents.

Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents, who do you consider to be the most favorable matchup?

This is tough to answer without really knowing how effective Justin Houston can be in his return from a knee injury, but I'm going to go with my gut and stick with the Texans. Both teams are pretty similar in composition: strong defenses bolstered by good pass rushers and cornerback play, passing games highly dependent on one star receiver (DeAndre Hopkins for Houston, Jeremy Maclin for KC) and questionable offensive line play. However, Kansas City has the better quarterback in Alex Smith, who has sneakily been a very good postseason QB in his career. They also have the superior running game, even without Jamaal Charles, and a far superior second option in the passing game (Travis Kelce). Neither team does a particularly good job of protecting their quarterback, but we've already seen the Pats manhandle Houston's line back when they still had Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. The Pats handled the Texans with relative ease even with all of their injuries, and will be far healthier this time if a rematch occurs. Bring them on.

The Pats have shuffled their offensive line throughout the season. Assuming Vollmer is back, who should be their starting five during the playoffs?

Sebastian Vollmer hasn't looked particularly comfortable at left tackle this season, but I'd still rather have the big German protecting Brady's blindside than Marcus Cannon. Despite his season-long struggles, Cannon is still the best option at right tackle, which is more of an indictment of Cameron Fleming than anything else. The interior gets more interesting. Josh Kline was the Pats best guard throughout the season, but he struggled a bit down the stretch as he played through a shoulder issue. Presuming the bye week has done some good for that shoulder, I'm pencilling him in a left guard. At right guard, I'm playing Tre' Jackson, who has been far more reliable in pass protection than fellow rookie Shaq Mason. Mason offers higher upside as a run blocker, but pass protection likely takes a higher importance now with Brady's full cast of passing weapons presumably back. Mason is simply too much of a liability in protection right now to throw out there with the season on the line. At center, I'm rolling with Bryan Stork and hoping he can be better in pass protection than what he's shown this season. If injuries or ineffectiveness strike, moving Andrews to center and Stork to guard is another intriguing possibility.

Aside from the O-line, what is the Pats biggest achilles heal during this postseason run?

The Patriots inability to establish their rushing attack has been troubling, but the return of Brady's weapons in the passing game figures to make that less of an issue. With that in mind, I'm going with depth in the secondary. Logan Ryan has come back to earth a bit over the past few weeks, with big talented receivers such as Dorial Green-Beckham and Devante Parker putting up impressive efforts primarily against his coverage. Leonard Johnson has also been picked on a bit recently, and will certainly be a target against any team with a decent three receiver set. Throw in uncertainty concerning the health of starting safeties Patrick Chung and Devin McCourty, neither of whom looked 100% out there last week, and a group that has been a strength all season is starting to look vulnerable. Don't get me wrong, I believe this secondary is talented enough to get it done against most teams, but the right opponent (Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Arizona) could find some very juicy mismatches to exploit against this group.


Rob Riches


Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents (Cincinnati, Houston, KC), which team would you most like to avoid?

Tough one, but I'll go against the grain here and go with Kansas City. The Chiefs find themselves in the playoffs for the second time in the Andy Reid Era, and while they started the year at 1-5, their 10-straight wins to end the season were no fluke. Sure, that streak has to come to an end at some point, but I don't expect that to come anytime soon, especially with a confident Alex Smith under center. Cincinnati is a scary, well-rounded team as well -- especially if Andy Dalton returns -- but I'm still wary of a red-hot Chiefs team.

Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents, who do you consider to be the most favorable matchup?

Houston. The Texans snagged a playoff spot by virtue of the AFC South being about as mediocre as it gets, and the Pats have historically dominated the Texans. Just under a month ago, the battered Pats were able to dismantle the Texans 27-6, and while this time around wouldn't exactly be comparable, I still like the Patriots' chances. It would be hard to watch, though, as the Pats would have to face off against Vince Wilfork with an AFC Championship on the line.

The Pats have shuffled their offensive line throughout the season. Assuming Vollmer is back, who should be their starting five during the playoffs?

Sebastian Vollmer at left tackle, Shaq Mason at left guard, Bryan Stork at center, Josh Kline at right guard, and Marcus Cannon at right tackle. Though if I had my druthers, I would replace Cannon with an average subway turnstile.

Aside from the O-line, what is the Pats biggest achilles heal during this postseason run?

Definitely the secondary depth. Aside from Malcolm Butler, the rest of the Pats' secondary -- and their propensity for allowing big plays -- has shown some cause for concern. Fortunately, guys like Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung have the bye week to rest and recuperate. While Logan Ryan showed flashes of brilliance over the season, I just don't see him returning to that high level of play.

Mark Burke

Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents (Cincinnati, Houston, KC), which team would you most like to avoid?

The Chiefs by far. The Pats already showed they can handle the Texans on both sides of the ball, and the Bengals are the Bengals. It looks like AJ McCarron will be starting Saturday night, and against the Steelers I can’t imagine many Bengals fans are feeling confident going into that game. As for the Chiefs, although they rampaged over some bad teams in their 10-game win streak, they’re playing out of their minds and playing with house money after battling back from their horrible 1-5 start. Through the streak, the offense is averaging 28.1 points per game while the defense is surrendering just 12.8 per game, and they seem the most confident team in the AFC bracket.

Of the Patriots three possible divisional opponents, who do you consider to be the most favorable matchup?

The Houston Texans. As I said, the Patriots already showed they can handle the Texans after their dominating 27-6 win back in Week 14. We know how JJ Watt can change games on the defensive line, but who’s their quarterback? Does anyone know? Is it finally back to Bryan Hoyer for good? Even if the former Patriot does find a way to beat the visceral Chiefs defense on Saturday, I wouldn’t be too worried in his ability to repeat the effort the following week in Gillette Stadium against a pissed off Patriots team that just had two weeks of rest and preparation.

The Pats have shuffled their offensive line throughout the season. Assuming Vollmer is back, who should be their starting five during the playoffs?

Practically since Day One the offensive line has struggled in some sort of manner. The last two weeks have been absolutely brutal, and we haven’t seen the line play this bad since the beginning of last season. My five-man unit would be Vollmer-Jackson-Andrews-Stork-Cannon, and I don’t feel good about it all. The fact that the team has such little strength and confidence at every position on the line is far and away the most concerning aspect heading into the postseason, above the injuries.

Aside from the O-line, what is the Pats biggest Achilles heal during this postseason run?

Hey, speaking of injuries! To narrow it down a bit, the health of Julian Edelman is the most important factor heading into January football. His health will either bring the Patriots to Santa Clara or see them bow out of the postseason prematurely. The loss of Edelman out of the slot was even more damaging than many Pats fans likely anticipated, and through these last six-and-a-half games without him, the offense wasn’t anything close to what we’re used to seeing. Edelman is Brady’s go-to in every situation imaginable, and playing without him on the field was like seeing Brady play with one leg. Everything gets thrown off, the rhythm of the attack gets stuck in the mud and the quick-strike pass game is non-existent. If he comes back at 100%, the Patriots will be playing for their fifth world title in Super Bowl 50.

Michael Saver 1/08/2016 12:20:00 PM Edit
______________________________________________________________________________________

« Prev Post Next Post »


_____________________________________________________________________________________

    Powered by Blogger.